Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The Middle Class: Death By Division

The American middle class is dying, quickly. Well, let's not put too fine a point on this: the American middle class is being murdered. The killers are George W. Bush and his Circus of Murderers, better known as his cabinet, the neocon Congress, and the mainstream media (case in point: did anyone see this on any of the MSM TV news shows? did we really have to wait until Letterman got hold of it?).

Let's start with some basic statistics. First, this, which I found in the text of a recent Bill Moyers speech (I recommend you read the whole thing, it's outstanding):

In 1960 the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Now it is 75 fold. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives in the country was 30 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

Now this, from Paul Krugman's Monday column in the New York Times:

Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains....Income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint. Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Yes, I know: the statistics cover a period of over 30 years, which includes three Democratic presidential terms and a number of years in which the Dems held a majority in Congress. But let's give credit where it's due: everything that the Bushies are doing, everything they have done, has been designed and executed, with a surgical precision, to exacerbate the trend of the bipolar economy, and widen that statistical division.

Case in point: the ports deal with the Dubai company of the UAE. Most of the focus of the bipartisan outcry over this debacle has been on security issues: three of the 9/11 terrorists came from the UAE, and the idea of turning over the stewardship of our major ports to a company owned by an Arab monarchy leaves no one feeling warm and fuzzy. But there is a deeper and, I think, a more pervasive threat posed by this handover of economic and logistical control of our shipping routes and ports to a foreign power, and that is the economic threat that we should all be familiar with by now.

When you hand over your national economy to a group of foreign plutocrats, you are creating a geopolitical mafia. That's what we have now: the Chinese government is America's banker, and they are doing the same thing to our government that the credit card companies do to us and our families—they hand us the economic shovel with which we continue to dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves. Once that hole has reached the appropriate depth, you can be sure that the dirt will be piled back in with a backhoe-style rapidity, and we will be buried alive. And now we are turning over our ports and critical shipping centers to another tyrannical and plutocratic government that not only represses free speech and the principles of human equality, but endorses the most predatory of oppressors (the UAE is one of three nations that recognized the Taliban government of Afghanistan).

So, let's set aside the security concerns for a moment, valid as they may be; and tell me: what do you think will be the economic effect of this deal? Is it not likely to become another gift of graft for that 99.99th percentile that Mr. Krugman mentioned? Is it not likely to reinforce America's dependence on foreign oil and the filthy-rich desert despots who control its flow and movement? Is it not likely to widen the gap through which the middle class is falling? Is it not likely, in fact, to become yet another nail in the coffin of democracy? How will a corporation of Arabian plutocrats, given their track record, deal with unions, do you think? Or with women in the workforce, or gays? How are they likely to treat their workers across the board, in terms of salary, incentives, vacation time, bonuses, and the like?

But there is a far more palpable and convincing metric than mere statistics or geopolitical speculation to assess the state of the American middle class, and it is known as experience. Consult your own experience, ask yourself some of those core questions that the opposition party candidates always urge us to ask at election time: are you better off than you were last year or five years ago, or ten? Are you living, or just surviving?


The Department of the Surreal-But-All-Too-Real:

I found this on one of my favorite blogs, which I'd recommend you bookmark, Deficient Brain:

Look sorry, this isn't a very long story because I only caught the end of an interview with Richard Perle that took place just a moment ago on BBC Worldservice radio - Newshour. But the news from Perle concerning Iraq is SO GOOD I feel compelled to post it anyway: "It's not as bad as Rwanda"

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